A wasteland a bit too much like any other...
As one first throws themselves into the story one is confronted by the familiar motif of the wasteland- a place devoid of sustenance, pervaded with a sense of rudderlessness and meaninglessness. The way the landscape was handled was fairly confident, showing some creativity and vision. I enjoyed the salty sea imagery and how it conjured of images of tears and suffering. Whilst the passage was good, the weakness was that it was just that. Whilst it was able to evoke a scene without descending too deeply into clichés, it pales in comparison to something like Fizgerald’s Valley of Ashes in ‘The Great Gatsby.’ The description failed to grab the reader and have them think in a wholly revolutionary way. The stale breath of the wind, the greyness, the smatterings of blood- one can’t help but feel that they have seen it all before. What I liked best about the framing wasteland scenes was its commentary on war, its futility and pointlessness, the waste of human potential, which was not only touching but also politically current and provocative.
The three scenes nestled between the visions of wasteland quite nicely acted, once again, as a comment on the devastation of war; uniting all strata of society under the banner of one awful fate. The descriptions were occasionally quite nicely handled. The scene with Mary and Dave was easily the most impressive; the ambivalent status of the paper constituting the letter, the mobile phone against the table, the latch which echoed through his tears. This impressively captured a mood and was, for me, easily the best part of the story. However, the snippets of Ray and Jerry were frankly a bit boring. I understood the paradox between jovialities at the pub and the hollow horror of the wasteland, but bizarrely the story framed the pub itself as something of a wasteland, the ‘vomitingly drunk’ men similar to the ‘red sullen faces sneer and snarl/ From doors of mudcracked houses’ in T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’- the dichotomy between the pub and the wasteland becoming a false one. Perhaps Jerry and his grotesque buddies deserve to be condemned?
Then again, perhaps the story wasn’t attempting to reflect on just the beauty that is lost to war, but rather the whole range of the human condition? Perhaps the writer was trying to show that brave men willing to give their lives can be found in the most unexpected of places and company? There may be deeper comments here, subtly lacing the story. It would be interesting to know how much of this was intentionally planted by the reader.
Overall the story was well described and provocative, getting people thinking about the futility of war and the temporality of the human condition. Yet sometimes the story was in danger of becoming dull and predictable, the bits of inspiring description a bit too rare making in more of a diamond in the rough than a gem. This story shows promise and gets you thinking, but it’s certainly not the finished article. Nonetheless, it is an encouraging start and would be interesting to see how Tom progresses.